Q: This plant popped up (and how!)and is still growing. What in the world is it?
A: In a “Biggest Leaf” contest, the prize almost always goes to either your tree, the paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa) or the Chinese parasol tree (Firmiana simplex). Both have huge leaves, especially on young plants or on stumps that have resprouted.
How can you tell them apart?
The Chinese parasol tree leaf has three lobes – it looks similar to a huge maple leaf. A paulownia leaf has no lobes and looks like a big green heart. Neither is particularly prized for landscape use but the leaves are certainly startling!
I do not recommend paulownia as a landscape tree because the limbs are so brittle and prone to breaking. Most folks consider it a weed.
The purple flowers in spring are attractive, like upside-down wisteria, but they produce a multitude of nuts that sprout in every crack and crevice in your landscape.
Paulownia (Princess Tree)